Eva Timoney / Gavel Media

Google Search: Do Our Phones Listen to Us?

Privacy is essentially impossible if you are living the life of an average American. Through social media, cell phones, credit cards, and computers, virtually all of our private information is accessible.

It may be naive, but my information being public does not bother me. As of now I have no plans of doing anything illegal, so I don’t really care that the government knows that I have been listening to the Jonas Brothers on repeat for hours or that I look up photos of Timothée Chalamet far too often. Of course, if I did have some malicious plot to overthrow our current president, maybe I would be offended by the infringement on my right to privately research how to hack a Twitter profile. I honestly enjoy when my phone picks a marketing ad perfectly tailored to something I want. If I buy some overpriced mascara from Glossier in hopes of looking like Angelina Jolie, I don’t mind that Instagram then shows me a million Glossier ads for the rest of eternity. Although it can verge a little on the side of Big Brother, it’s generally helpful when Google has exactly what I was thinking of in the “recommended search” section. For example, when I type the letter “t,” Google takes me straight to Timothée Chalamet headshots.

However, recently I discovered some startling (or maybe comforting?) news. Our phones aren’t actually listening to us! Industry professionals have done research and claim that websites like Facebook and Google don’t actually listen to our conversations. Instead, they use information from a highly curated profile on us based on shopping habits or search history to predict what we may be talking about and therefore give you a relevant ad or Google suggestion. There it is. My worst nightmare: I am so predictable and basic that my phone knows exactly what I may be discussing at any moment in time. My dreams of being a mysterious and spontaneous wild card have been dashed.

 I honestly cannot believe that my online habits garner so much information to companies that some of my very obscure Google searches are able to be predicted. Not to reveal too much of my search history, but “Seth Rogan hot” and “Is a sweet potato a yam?” are among some of the most recent quandaries. (Both of which came up as a suggested search a little too fast). What does my online profile say about me? Is there some internet secret agent that thinks I am obsessed with root vegetables and husky men in glasses? They aren’t necessarily wrong on those counts, but I like to think I’m a little more multifaceted than that!

I truly don’t know how to feel. Is it better that they aren’t listening to us or is it just insulting that technology is so much smarter than us that they don’t even need to bother listening to our dumb conversations? Maybe I should be a bit more paranoid about the overwhelming power technology has over us. My brother—much more of a conspiracy theorist than myself—is convinced that you could easily frame someone for murder using only their DNA from a genetic testing database, general information from their Facebook, and their Snapchat location. My only question is why on earth would someone want to frame me for murder? I did recently take a girl’s wet laundry out and set it on the dusty washer...so maybe her? Again, I might be too idealistic, but I don’t believe the government has malicious intentions with my data. Sure, they want to scan my emails for suspicious terrorist plots or fuel capitalism by blasting every internet site with ads that make me want to whip out my wallet, but in the end neither of those things really concern me.

Bottom line, the infringement on my privacy ends up making my life a little easier and I have yet to see any tangible downsides. My father’s corrupt government cloning theories are just a little too 1984 to ponder for long. Instead of dwelling on that, I plan on taking the ignorance is bliss approach and continuing my happy scrolling through Timothée’s pictures. Alexa, play “SOS” by the Jo' Bros.

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